Sunday, March 12, 2017

Final Championship Week Predictions

Apologies for not posting this earlier in the day, before the games started, but this springing forward is really fucking with my mind.  It's either that, or the mescaline.  To quote the existential wisdom of Lloyd Christmas, we're there, man.  Today is Selection Sunday, the holiest of college basketball days.  As you lie on the couch, muscling down water and trying not to puke up car bombs and corned beef sliders, there are the final six championship games to keep you looking up from your bucket.  Here's what happened in yesterday's Championship Week action.  20 bids were clinched, more 1-seeds were ousted, and more bubbles were burst.  And again my bubble is pretty expansive, but it includes all of the teams listed in ESPN's Bubble Watch, as well as the Last Four Byes, Last Four In, First Four Out, and Next Four Out in Joe Lunardi's Bracketology, and maybe a couple other fringe "high bubble" and "low bubble" teams.
  • In the Big Ten semis, as I predicted, 8-seed Michigan continued its surprise run, beating 4-seed Minnesota, 84-77.  In the other semi, 2-seed Wisconsin destroyed 6-seed Northwestern, 76-48.  Both are locks for the tournament.  The Wolverines will be going to their 27th NCAA Tournament and 2nd in a row, while the Badgers will be going to their 23rd NCAA Tournament and 19th in a row.
  • In the AAC semis, the top two seeds, SMU and Cincinnati, respectively, advanced to today's final.  Both are locks to go to the Big Dance.  The Mustangs will be playing in their 12th NCAA Tournament and first since 2015, and the Bearcats will be playing in their 31st NCAA Tournament and 7th in a row.
  • In the Atlantic 10 semis, 9-seed Davidson's Cinderella run is over, as they fell to 4-seed Rhode Island, 84-60, while 2-seed VCU beat 3-seed Richmond in OT, 84-77.  It's gonna be a Rams on Rams final.  URI is still on the bubble, but if they win, they will be playing in their 9th NCAA Tournament and first since 1999.  Someone do a wellness check on Lamar Odom.  VCU is likely in either way, and they will be playing in their 16th NCAA Tournament and 7th in a row.
  • In the first-ever Ivy League semis, there were two thrillers at the Palestra.  Top seed Princeton needed OT to beat 4-seed Penn, 72-64, and 3-seed Yale beat 2-seed Harvard, 73-71.  The Tigers will be playing for their 25th NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2011, while the Bulldogs will be playing for their 5th appearance and 2nd in a row.
  • In the SEC semis, top seed Kentucky barely beat 5-seed Alabama, 79-74, and 3-seed Arkansas ended 7-seed Vanderbilt's run, winning 76-62.  The Commodores may become the first 15-loss team to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Both of the other teams are locks.  The Razorbacks will be playing in their 31st NCAA Tournament and first since 2015.  Fuck Kentucky.
  • In the Sun Belt semis, there was a major upset, as top seed UT Arlington -- a very heavy favorite and team with an RPI in the mid 30s -- lost to 4-seed Texas State, 83-62.  The Mavericks will have to sweat it out today, as they likely won't get an at-large bid.  In the other semi, 6-seed Troy beat 2-seed Georgia State, 74-63.  The Bobcats will be playing for their 3rd NCAA Tournament berth and first since 1997, while the Trojans will be playing for their 2nd berth and first since 2003.
  • In the ACC final, 5-seed Duke beat 3-seed Notre Dame, 75-69.  The Blue Devils will be going to its 41st NCAA Tournament and 22nd in a row.  They could either win it all or lose in their first game.  Such is Duke.
  • In the America East final, top seed Vermont beat 2-seed Albany, 56-53, clinching the Catamounts' 6th trip to the Big Dance and first since 2012.
  • In the Big 12 final, 4-seed Iowa State topped 2-seed West Virginia, 80-74, to clinch the Cyclones' 19th NCAA Tournament and 6th in a row.
  • In the Big East final, top seed Villanova wrapped up a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament, beating 6-seed Creighton, 74-60.  The Wildcats are going to their 37th NCAA Tournament and 5th in a row.
  • In a thrilling Big Sky final, 1-seed North Dakota held off 3-seed Weber State, 93-89, in overtime.  The Fighting Hawks will be playing in their first NCAA Tournament.
  • In the Big West final, 2-seed UC Davis upset top seed UC Irvine, 50-47, clinching the Aggies' first trip to the Big Dance.
  • In the C-USA final, 1-seed Middle Tennessee State dropped 6-seed Marshall, 83-72.  The Blue Raiders will be playing in their 9th NCAA Tournament berth and second in a row.  Don't sleep on MTSU when filling out your bracket.
  • In the miggity miggity miggity miggity miggity miggity MAC final, 6-seed Kent State upset top seed and arch rival Akron, 70-65.  The Golden Flashes clinched their 6th NCAA Tournament berth and first since 2008.
  • In the MEAC final, top seed North Carolina Central beat 2-seed Norfolk State, 67-59.  The Eagles will be playing in their 2nd NCAA Tournament and first since 2014.
  • In the MWC final, 1-seed Nevada beat 2-seed Colorado State, 79-71.  The Wolfpack will be playing in their 7th Big Dance and first since 2007.
  • In an exciting Pac-12 final, 2-seed Arizona beat 1-seed Oregon, 83-80, putting the Wildcats in the conversation for a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament.  They will be playing in their 34th tournament and 5th in a row.
  • In the Southland final, top seed New Orleans beat 2-seed Texas A&M Corpus Christi, 68-65 in OT, to clinch the Privateers' 5th NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 1996.  Somewhere Ervin Johnson is dancing.
  • In the SWAC final, top seed Texas Southern made it official, beating 2-seed Alcorn State, 53-50.  The Tigers had already clinched their 7th trip to the Big Dance by making it to the final, as Alcorn State is ineligible for postseason play.
  • In the wiggity wiggity wiggity wiggity wiggity wiggity WAC final, 2-seed New Mexico State crushed the dreams of 1-seed Cal State Bakersfield, with a 70-60 win. The Aggies will be playing in their 23rd appearance and first since 2015.
  • Bubble teams that won yesterday:  Nevada, Rhode Island
  • Bubble teams that lost yesterday:  Richmond, UT-Arlington, Vanderbilt
Here are the tournaments starting today, the tournaments with games today, bids up for grab today, who has already clinched an automatic berth, and my predictions for the remaining conference tournaments.

Tournaments starting today

Tournaments with games today
-America East
-Atlantic 10
-Big 12
-Big East
-Big Sky
-Big Ten
-Big West
-Conference USA
-Ivy League
-Mountain West
-Sun Belt

Bids up for grabs today (all times Eastern)
-Ivy League:  (1) Princeton vs. (3) Yale (12 p.m., ESPN2) 
-Atlantic 10:  (4) Rhode Island vs. (2) VCU (12:30 p.m., CBS) 
-SEC:  (1) Kentucky vs. (3) Arkansas (1 p.m., ESPN) 
-Sun Belt:  (4) Texas State vs. (6) Troy (2 p.m., ESPN)
-Big Ten:  (2) Wisconsin vs. (8) Michigan (3 p.m., CBS)
-AAC:  (1) SMU vs. (2) Cincinnati (3:15 p.m., ESPN)

Already clinched automatic berths (I will add in parentheses the NCAA tournament appearances for each school, including the bid just clinched)
-ACC:  Duke (41)
-America East:  Vermont (6)
-Atlantic Sun:  Florida Gulf Coast (3)
-Big East:  Villanova (37)
-Big 12:  Iowa State (19)
-Big Sky:  North Dakota (1)
-Big South:  Winthrop (10)
-Big West:  UC Davis (1)
-Colonial:  UNC-Wilmington (6)
-Conference USA: Middle Tennessee State (9)
-Horizon:  Northern Kentucky (1)
-MAC:  Kent State (6)
-MAAC:  Iona (12)
-MEAC:  North Carolina Central (2)
-Missouri Valley:  Wichita State (14)
-Mountain West:  Nevada (7)
-Northeast:  Mount St. Mary's (5)
-Ohio Valley:  Jacksonville State (1)
-Pac-12:  Arizona (34)
-Patriot:  Bucknell (7)
-Southern:  East Tennessee State (10)
-Southland:  New Orleans (5)
-Summit:  South Dakota State (4)
-SWAC:  Texas Southern (7)
-WAC:  New Mexico State (23)
-West Coast:  Gonzaga (20)

Remaining Tournaments (all times are Eastern)

AAC (March 9-12; Hartford)
3/12 – Finals
3:15 p.m. (ESPN) (1) SMU vs. (2) Cincinnati.  Predicted winner:  SMU

Atlantic 10 (March 8-12; Pittsburgh)
3/12 – Finals
12:30 p.m. (CBS) (4) Rhode Island vs. (2) VCU.  Predicted winner:  VCU

Big Ten (March 8-12; Washington, DC)
3/12 – Finals
3 p.m. (CBS) (2) Wisconsin vs. (8) Michigan. Predicted winner:  Wisconsin

Ivy League (March 11-12; Philadelphia)
3/12 – Finals
12 p.m. (ESPN2) (1) Princeton vs. (3) Yale.  Predicted winner:  Princeton

SEC (March 8-12; Nashville)
3/12 – Finals
1 p.m. (ESPN) (1) Kentucky vs. (3) Arkansas.  Predicted winner:  Kentucky

Sun Belt (March 8, 10-12; New Orleans)
3/12 – Finals
2 p.m. (ESPN) (4) Texas State vs. (6) Troy.  Predicted winner:  Texas State

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